By Piriya Mahendra, medwireNews Reporter
A screening model for stuttering could be used to assess all school-age children for the speech disorder, say researchers.
Peter Howell and colleagues from University College London, UK, previously developed a model to predict whether 8-year-old children would continue to stutter into their teenage years. In the present study, he shows it is possible to use this model to screen children for stuttering when they start primary school at the age of 5 years.
"For the screening tool to be used effectively, it needs to meet the rigorous standards for accurately identifying children who stutter separately from children who are fluent. We found that this method can do just that," said Howell in a press statement.
"If we can identify children at risk of stuttering, then we can offer appropriate interventions to help them early on. Primary school is a key time in a child's development and any help in tackling potential communication problems could make a big difference to the child's life."
Howell developed the model to predict prognosis and screen children who stutter based on 222 children with the speech disorder and 103 children who were fluent. He then validated these findings in a further 272 children who stutter and 25 fluent children. All children were aged between 5 and 18 years.
As reported in the Journal of Fluency Disorders, all analyses both excluded and included whole-word repetitions in stuttering severity scores. The model that screened fluent children from all children who stutter excluded whole-word repetitions and was validated for children across a range of ages.
Howell found that all models achieved a specificity and sensitivity of 80%. He also observed that "models in which whole-word repetitions were excluded were always better than those which included them."
Validation of the model that screened for fluency with whole-word repetitions excluded correctly classified 84.4% of fluent children and 88.0% of children who stutter. This means that the majority of children who stutter would be correctly identified, Howell says.
Although these findings also show that some children who do not stutter would be incorrectly identified, Howell believes that these children may have other communication problems that need to be investigated.
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